Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: A Love Worth Living

By Michael Block 

The most important question upon leaving Hundred Days is when will we get the recording of this production! Playing New York Theatre Workshop following a stint at the Under the Radar Festival, The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher’s Hundred Days is turning theatrical art form upside down. A hybrid theater piece that marries book musical with concert, Hundred Days is a folk-rock fantasia of love and grief.
For just over an hour, Abigail and Shaun Bengson share the story of their cinematic meeting, their three-week relationship turned engagement, and the journey through highs, lows, hardships, and flashes of loss and love. Stringing the story along is Sarah Gancher, who helps guide this autobiographical song cycle. Joined by a band of players, of both instrument and story, Hundred Days is a more of a concert, but not quite a classic work of theater. Abigail and Shaun carry the majority of the dialogue, but a third character, Max, is played by the hypnotizing Jo Lampert. The trouble though, if Max is an important physical presence, we desire more personas as a singular realized character pulls from the dynamics of our gallant pair. There’s something enticing and special about this mesmerizing experience, but it’s missing that spark to really let it ignite.
photo by Joan Marcus
Even so, Hundred Days will leave you longing for more of the vocal acrobatics from Abigail Bengson. Her vocal prowess would not only land her a four chair turn on “The Voice,” she’d likely be given a record deal on the spot. There are very few performers who can bare their entire story through their exceptional voice. Abigail Bengson is a treasure. Shaun Bengson is a tantalizing support for Abigail, both in story and on stage. At first glance, you might view the couple as an unlikely pair, but their love transcends all.
Anne Kauffman brings her strong sense of storytelling to the stage to guide the pair through their own story. Perhaps there was a stray in reality, Kauffman ensures you’d never know. To bring the story beyond a concert, the movement direction from Sonya Tayeh allows the ensemble to use their instruments as a limb of expression. When you walk into New York Theatre Workshop, you’ll see a concert style setup with that theatrical vibe. If you feel the hanging industrial lights on Kris Stone and Andrew Hungerford’s scenic design might be derivative, you’re absolutely correct. Hungerford’s ability to use these lights in a unique manner, however, brings the visual to the next level. Hundred Days is a sound design victory by Nicholas Pope. Pope does more than make sure the music is mixed well, he captures emotion through encapsulating the room is sound.
Like the sands of time, when the last grain drops, love and life may be over, but The Bengsons allow you to leave with the reminder to live each moment to its fullest. Hundred Days is an illuminating production that catapulted them beyond songwriters. They are theatrical artists.